[notice]A monthly column that reflects on living in the Kingdom of God.[/notice]
It is quite incredible to see what our modern culture can do with almost anything. Take Easter for example. Here we are, in Holy week, remembering the tumultuous last week of Christ before and up to his resurrection. We have the heartbreaking agony of Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s incredible denial, and of course, the Crucifixion, complete with flogging, jeering and nail-piercing pain, described by Cicero as “the cruelest and most hideous punishment possible.” No wonder the Bible describes Jesus’ sacrificial death here as the very embodiment of love itself. And yet somehow, our culture has replaced Jesus with the Easter bunny, and a cross with Easter eggs. As a father of young children, it has become quite clear to my wife and I that if my kids simply imbibe the culture, they may come to believe that this is what Easter is all about. I have nothing against bunnies or Easter eggs (especially the chocolate ones without marshmallows), but if my kids hear more about Easter from Checkers and Pick and Pay than the Bible and their parents, chances are quite high that I will raise some self-absorbed, consumerist individuals who are into themselves and not Christ. Thankfully, Focus on the Family and others have come up with some great ways to celebrate Easter, dethroning the Easter bunny and using Easter eggs and other ‘tools’ for a greater purpose: to draw our families to Christ.
‘Two different religions’
But it is not only our kids that are at risk. Timothy Keller recently tweeted: The reason people can know the gospel and not change their lives is because they think forgiveness is cheap. I’ll be honest. I have only braved watching Mel Gibson’s The Passion just once. I don’t know if I can face that again. Yet this was a toned down version of what actually happened on the Cross. Isaiah declared that his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness. People in Roman times knew what a crucifixion was all about. Those of us living in a world of democracy and human rights do not. Our present danger is that we tone down the Cross to fit in with our modern democracy, with the result being that we lose the gravitas of His suffering, and live ungrateful, unchanged, self-absorbed and materialistic lives that bear a greater resemblance to nice modern unbelievers than first-century, eyewitness believers. The Cross and subsequent Resurrection impacted them so greatly that these ordinary folk were transformed into courageous martyrs who followed in their Master’s footsteps. And then I get upset about the most minor inconveniences like a disruption of wi-fi connectivity for a few hours. I remember watching a clip of Arab Christian TV on you tube. What an experience. On the show (very different to our often Western self-absorbed Christian TV), a talk-show host was talking about Egyptian Christian martyrs who had refused to renounce their faith and were executed by IS forces on a Libyan beach. An Egyptian who had lost two of his brothers called in to the station. Upon being asked how his family were coping, he remarked on how honoured his hometown was to have two of its sons dying for the name of Jesus. Unbelievable stuff, especially for your average self-absorbed Western Christian. After screening the clip, I asked our Bible school class for comments. One honest response said it all: “I feel like we are following two different religions.” How true.
At the foot of the Cross
Like the Roman centurion converted at the foot of the Cross, we desperately need to spend some quality time meditating on that event. I believe that there is a time and place for counselling, but the best form of this is not on the couch but at the Cross. AW Tozer once remarked: As God is exalted to the right place in our lives, a thousand problems are solved all at once. This is truly the best and yet underutilised form of counselling given to man. At the foot of the Cross, a thousand problems are solved. Of all our maladies, perhaps unforgiveness is one of our biggest human problems. Yet, standing at the Cross, an earth-shattering truth is revealed, and this is it: that whatever has been done to us cannot be compared with what we have done to Christ, yet he forgave us completely. RC Sproul wisely wrote: “Why do bad things happen to good people? That only happened once, and He volunteered.” This Easter, may the victory of the Resurrection be matched with the gravity of the Cross, and may our lives resemble these two life-changing events. God Bless you.